What Is Psychotherapy? - Definition, Types & Approaches

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  • 0:00 Another Form of Treatment
  • 0:40 What Is Psychotherapy?
  • 1:27 Types of Psychotherapy
  • 3:06 Approaches to Therapy
  • 5:35 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Leslie Bartley

Leslie currently teaches various psychology courses while also working on her PhD in human behavior.

Psychotherapy is a treatment process to help people deal with psychological issues, such as depression, anxiety, and posttraumatic stress disorder. Unfortunately, many people are unaware of how it works or how problematic untreated mental health issues can be. This lesson covers what psychotherapy is and how it is used to help others.

Another Form of Treatment

Nilda is meeting with her doctor and he informs her that her glucose levels are too high, diagnosing her as type II diabetic. In their discussion, the doctor tells Nilda that with treatment, such as diet and exercise, she will be able to improve her health and quality of life. Psychotherapy is also a treatment process, but instead of diabetes, it addresses psychological issues that can affect our moods, emotions, and thinking. Here we will delve into how psychotherapy works, the types of psychotherapy, and some of the common approaches that are used to help people improve their health and quality of life.

What Is Psychotherapy?

Psychotherapy is a treatment process that helps people who may be dealing with psychological issues, such as depression or anxiety. While it is common for people to sometimes 'feel blue' or 'a little worried,' occasionally these feelings escalate, last for a long period of time, and get in the way of life. For example, someone with clinical depression may be unable to get out of bed to go to work, start to ignore hygiene, and lose their appetite.

When psychological issues start to get in the way of someone's ability to function, that is when they may want to consider psychotherapy to treat their issues and regain control of their life back. Just like Nilda needed to engage in treatment efforts like diet and exercise to remedy her diabetes, people can engage in psychotherapy to learn ways to remedy their psychological issues.

Types of Psychotherapy

The type of psychotherapy used depends on the psychological issue the person is dealing with. Not all forms of psychotherapy are appropriate for all cases. There are three main types of psychotherapy: insight, behavioral, and biomedical. Insight therapy works on helping the individual gain understanding into their disorder; the 'whys' and the 'hows'. The idea is once an individual understands why they feel or think they way they do, they can engage in ways to change it.

Behavioral therapy works to change behaviors that are not helping. The purpose here isn't really for the individual to know why they are acting a certain way, but instead for them to learn how to change the bad behaviors into helpful or positive behaviors. Think of it as retraining how you react or respond to something.

The last therapy is biomedical therapy. This form of therapy is conducted by a psychiatrist, a medical doctor who specializes in psychological issues, or other medical professionals. The most common form of this therapy is through medication, such as Prozac or Wellbutrin, which are used to treat depression. Once the doctor has diagnosed the individual, they will prescribe medication that can treat the biological issues (that is, chemical imbalance) that may be causing the psychological issue.

In very rare cases, some individuals who have been unsuccessful in their treatment efforts may do other biomedical therapies, such as psychosurgery or electro shock. While historically these methods were the first attempts to treat individuals suffering from psychological issues, the mandatory use was considered unethical and now these are elective. Again, these are used in rare cases and under medical supervision.

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